FA Premier League
Tuesday 29 January 2013, 19.45 KO
City: Hart, Zabaleta (c), Garcia, Lescott, Clichy, Milner (Sinclair 86), Barry, Nasri (Dzeko 59), Silva, Aguero, Tevez (Rodwell 73)
Unused: Pantilimon, Nastasic, Rekik, Kolarov
Booked: Barry, Zabaleta
Referee: Phil Dowd
Man of the Match: Gael Clichy
The opening stages of the game were being played at a very high tempo, with City pushing QPR back into their own half, despite not threatening with a shot on goal. In response, the home side were trying to press the visitors back towards their own goal, but the away side were doing well to keep possession. Aguero managed a deflected shot towards the back post, but it didn’t trouble Cesar; from the resulting corner, though, the keeper flapped at the ball and palmed it to Lescott, who could only volley over.
With 15 minutes played, it was suddenly all City. Aguero produced a marvellous turn to get in behind the QPR defence, but his cut-back towards Tevez and Zabaleta in the area was intercepted and knocked behind for a corner. A series of flag kicks caused Cesar all kinds of problems, but the hosts were able see it clear. City had them back under pressure almost immediately through Silva’s drive to the by-line, though, but Zabaleta’s header bounced back off the bar.
Garcia could have opened the scoring with what would have been a goal of the season, as he smashed a volley towards the net from 40 yards out, but it whistled just wide of Cesar’s goal. At the other end, though, City were caught asleep from a quick free kick and Remy was in on goal: His shot deflected off Garcia, who had got back in to cover, and curled around the post. Aguero had the ball in the net minutes later, but he’d been flagged offside.
The home side were packing the defence to make it difficult for the visitors and it was working. Zabaleta found a rare moment of space down the right flank and fed Silva, but the Spaniard’s shot was well blocked and Cesar was able to pick up the loose ball. It had been all City, but it was QPR who had a great opportunity to open the scoring from a breakaway. Hart was off his line superbly, though, to deny Taarabt.
Three minutes before the break, it was back on form from Julio Cesar to keep City out. Barry won the ball back in midfield and slotted it through to Silva. He found Tevez and the Argentine returned it to Barry, who shot first time for the top corner, but the Rangers’ keeper got across well to tip it behind. A minute later, Nasri should have hit the target from the edge of the box, but he dragged it wide and it remained goalless at half time.
It was a stronger second half start for the hosts, though. Some good possession ended prematurely when a loose ball dribbled through to Hart, before Taarabt broke away from the City midfield and ran towards goal. His effort, which he took early, hit Lescott on the heels and fell kindly for Hart to collect.
With City dominating possession and QPR getting men behind the ball, chances were few and far between. Dzeko stretched to try and control a Milner pass, but couldn’t keep it in play, before Silva had a low drive from a corner well held by Cesar, with both Aguero and Dzeko sniffing around for the rebound. Zabaleta was then brilliantly picked out by Milner and he nodded it back for Aguero to volley, but he blazed it over the bar.
QPR wanted a penalty with 15 minutes to play, but the referee waved away the protests, with replays showing Remy dived as he passed Lescott on the edge of the box. Milner, at the other end, tried a low drive at the near post, but it was bread and butter for Cesar, who was able to gather it comfortably.
With eight minutes of time remaining, a brilliant save from Cesar kept the scores level. Dzeko did well to get a low cross into the middle and find Silva’s left foot. The Spaniard hit it first time inside the six-yard box, but a fantastic reflex save from the goalkeeper kept it out, leaving the defence to clear.
Two minutes before the end of the game, City wanted a penalty for a challenge on Scott Sinclair in the box, but the referee adjudged Onuoha to have won the ball. It was a great call, with the replays showing the former City defender did indeed win the tackle fairly and City were looking frustrated.
The visitors weren’t able to muster another chance in the game and it finished goalless: Two points dropped and United now have the chance to re-open the gap at the top of the league.